Washington was one of the nation’s best deep threats at wide receiver. How will his talent translate to the next level?
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series returns! Over the course of the eight weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. This week, we dive into the wide receiver position. Today we look at James Washington from the Oklahoma State University.
A multi-sport (football, tennis, track) athlete, Washington was a standout player on the football field at Stamford High School in Stamford, Texas. He thrived on both sides of the ball, recording 1,331 yards and 24 touchdowns, as well as 42 tackles and seven interceptions as a senior. His impressive high school career warranted interest from a few Big 12 teams, including Baylor, TCU, and Texas Tech.
Washington ultimately decided to continue his football career at Oklahoma State, where he would eventually become one of the nation’s best wideouts.
Appearing in all 13 games as a true freshman, Washington finished with 28 receptions for 458 yards and six touchdowns. As a sophomore, his play took a major leap forward, as he exploded for 53 catches, 1,087 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
In his junior campaign, Washington further-elevated his game, as he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for a second consecutive season, concluding the year with 1,380 yards on 71 catches and 10 touchdowns. Perhaps his best performance that season was in the Cowboy’s bowl game; in the Alamo Bowl, Washington put up nine catches for 171 yards and a touchdown, leading his team to a commanding 38-8 victory over Colorado.
After electing to return to Oklahoma State for his senior season, instead of opting for the 2017 NFL Draft, Washington saved his best season for his last. Finishing the season with a whopping 1,549 yards on 74 catches and 13 touchdowns, his impressive year earned him First-Team All-Big 12 and unanimous All-American honors. Furthermore, Washington was selected as the recipient of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s best wide receiver.
Every touchdown by James Washington from the 2017 season. pic.twitter.com/8qnux1GboL— James Simpson (@JS_Football) April 1, 2018
Washington possesses elite breakaway speed; he finished his career with an average of 20.9 yards-per-reception. He does a phenomenal job of tracking the ball down the field, as deep-ball threats must be able to do at the next level. Moreover, Washington is surprisingly adept at going up and getting the 50-50 balls despite his shorter stature at 5’11.
Death, taxes, and James Washington deep ball TDs. pic.twitter.com/0RDywRwsAf— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) September 23, 2017
James Washington has incredible hands. pic.twitter.com/YOa0yW3Ggm— Jake (@SeedsofJake) January 25, 2018
In addition, he has the ability to play both outside and in the slot, as he started inside at Oklahoma State before transitioning to outside. Furthermore, Washington utilizes his superb build-up speed to consistently blow past opposing corners, and he has the necessary quickness to escape press coverage immediately.
As previously mentioned, Washington doesn’t have the greatest acceleration burst and often relies on gradual speed to get past defenders. Also, Washington lacks a complete route tree, as he mainly ran fly or nine-routes (streaks) in college. Moreover, he doesn’t possess smooth, short-area footwork, and struggles to escape tight, man-to-man coverage when running routes underneath.
PFF) January 25, 2018
Additionally, Washington has to be more abrupt in making his cuts; his top-heavy frame frequently caused him to ease into routes, rather than make sharp cuts. To become an all-around receiver, and not simply a speed-reliant one at the next level, Washington will need to develop a more-complex route tree, and improve his footwork around the line of scrimmage.
Speed and versatility are key at the wide receiver position in the NFL, and Washington is surely skilled in those areas. His ability to constantly win one-on-one matchups, whether it be with speed or pure athleticism, is intriguing for NFL scouts and head coaches. Washington could very well emerge as the best receiver from this class, so look for teams to strongly consider him in the first round.
Washington is a sure bet to be taken by the end of Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft. His name has been mentioned as high as 16th to the Ravens; however, he could also easily slide to the second round. Following the release of Dez Bryant, the Cowboys are a possible candidate to draft the speedster at 19. Other teams in need of a receiver or depth at the position include: the Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals, and Buffalo Bills.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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